We hope you enjoyed this week’s experiences focused on Staying Curious. Were you inspired to create or invent something? Please share your story or photos with us on social media using #WeAreInnovationNation!
If you missed anything from our series this past week, check out the recordings and resources below. We hope that you will join us this upcoming week to explore new themes drawn from our Model i Learning Framework, focusing on how innovators Take Risks.
What We Covered This Week How can we turn our questions into ideas, and our ideas into actions?
This Memorial Day weekend, bring a favorite recipe from Civil War Remembrance in Greenfield Village into your own home. Though the name of the dish is simple, the results are plentiful and could well feed an army. It’s also simple to make; the true key to this dish is cooking it over an open fire, but it can also be prepared on a kitchen stove over medium-to-high heat. Whichever method you choose, a large cast-iron skillet is essential to re-creating this dish.
A few tips from our chefs:
There's no wrong way to prepare this dish; add whatever herbs and spices you like.
Boil potatoes until tender; let cool, then peel and cut into 1-inch chunks. Slice sausage into 2-inch pieces. Slice apples into ½-inch pieces. Julienne onions into ½-inch slices. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over the campfire (or on stove). Add the butter and sausage; cook until lightly browned. Add the apple slices, onion and garlic; cook for about 5 minutes. Top with the potatoes and let cook for a few minutes before stirring. The potatoes must be cool when added. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in. Let all cook together until everything is tender and the flavors are melded, about 10-20 minutes. Stir occasionally, but if you stir too much, it will be mushy.
On May 14 The Henry Ford recognized the 2020 winners of Invention Convention Michigan through a special awards ceremony hosted on our YouTube and Facebook channels. More than 2,600 students across the state participated in events leading up to the state final this year, with 155 students competing in the final competition.
Thank you to staff who participated in judging this year, our sponsors, and congratulations to the students listed below who have been invited to compete at Invention Convention U.S. Nationals.
Learn more about the winning inventions from the inventors themselves below along with our virtual awards ceremony.
Grades 3-5 Third Place: Falcon Saiabhiram Akkaraju, Grade 5, Novi Meadows Elementary, Novi Falcon (Flying Automated Litter Controller) is a Litter picking drone.
Second Place: Dispens-a-Ramp Diya Ural, Grade 4, Village Oaks Elementary, Novi
The Dispens-a-Ramp is an invention to help big dogs that are having a hard time getting into cars (especially, SUVs). Dispens-a-Ramp is a bi-foldable ramp with a built-in automatic treat dispenser. When the dog puts its paw on the button, it triggers the treat dispenser to dispense the treat into the bowl. Each Dispens-a-Ramp could have few dispensing units.This encourages the dog to move further onto the ramp and finally, into the car.
The main purpose of the invention is for the dogs to have a positive experience getting into the car. Hence, my motto is "One step to a Dog's Happy Journey".
First Place: Filtere – Water Filtration System John Tewolde, Grade 5, Brendel Elementary, Grand Blanc
Filtere is a water filter that can be used to filter contaminated water. It uses three types of water filtration methods - Granular Activated Carbon (GAC), Ion Exchange, and UV light. This germ-killing combination gets all 30 of the particles that could end up in water. It can be used in any container of water, and cleans ALL germs within 30 seconds. Water contamination is a large problem in the world that affects more than two billion people. Filtere is an affordable and effective solution to this problem.
Grades 6-8 Third Place: Piezo Power Samvith Mahesh, Grade 6, Novi Meadows Elementary, Novi
When pressure is applied to some special crystal structure deforms, atoms get pushed around, hence generating electricity and is known as Piezo electric affect. Our project is designing products that uses this science as an energy producer using energy humans exert while doing daily activities.
Second Place: Porch Pirate Preventer (P3) Akhilesh Shenoy and David Tauro, Grade 6, Novi Meadows Elementary, Novi
Did you know that over 1.7 million packages are stolen daily around the world? Our incredible Porch Pirate Preventer (P3) stops package theft of porch deliveries in a very cost-effective way.
Our device, which is made up of a chip, an accelerometer, a Piezo buzzer and a numeric keypad, uses a loud alarm to prevent thieves from taking delivered packages. The chip is programmed using Python to make the accelerometer and Piezo buzzer work with each other.
Once the package is placed on the homeowner's porch, the delivery person uses the keypad on the package to activate P3. He/she then sends a message to the package owner to let them know that the package is delivered and activated. Only the package owner can deactivate P3 using the keypad on the package. If the package is moved or a wrong code is entered, a loud alarm is set off.
Just as bottle returns work in many states, P3 is fully refundable for the package owner when returned to participating merchants. The company can then reuse P3 on future deliveries. So it's a win-win all around!
First Place: Reinnervate Suhani Dalela, Grade 8, Independent Inventor, Saline
Reinnervate is an alternative medicine based instant fatigue reduction device. Using World Health Organization's standardized meridian points, this device provides instant energy to the user without disrupting the activity they are doing.
Grade 9-12 Third Place and Howard & Howard Patent Award: EcoRinse Elizabeth Li, Grade 12, Huron High School, Ann Arbor
EcoRinse is a robust, redesigned showering system that aims to reduce water waste in the shower. It redirects cold water that sits in pipes into the water heating system so that the cold water can be reused as hot shower water instead of flowing down the drain while the user waits for water to heat up in the shower.
Second Place: Perceive the Puzzle Jayden Smith and Siena Smith, Grade 12, Huron High School, Ann Arbor
Perceive the Puzzle is a portable EEG for autistic individuals. The device allows caregivers to monitor brain activity, helping them to address episodes of stress quickly and easily. This is something that you can't find anywhere on the market and hits close to home for us. Our project was inspired by our Uncle Mark who was diagnosed with autism with he was four so we wanted to make something that would help him!
Grand Prize and First Place: AstroTrack: An Efficient Approach to Minor Planet Recovery, Detection, and Characterization Anirudh Cowlagi, Grade 12, Huron High School, Ann Arbor
Advances in the field of planetary science, particularly concerning our own solar system, have been dramatic over the last few decades. These advancements owe largely to developments in observing technology and more comprehensive astronomical surveys across the world. However, with these copious amounts of new data comes a need for more effective methods of analysis. This project offers a solution to the issue by presenting an efficient Python-based approach to aid with the detection, recovery, and characterization of minor planets in the solar system (asteroids, trans-neptunian objects, Kuiper Belt objects, etc.).
There's something special about chocolate. It makes us feel better when we're down, gives us energy when we're tired, even evokes memories of long-ago childhood experiences. In fact, this "feel-good" food contains more than 300 known chemicals that act upon the brain to uplift our mood, increase alertness, reduce stress, and possibly even enhance memory. Indeed, it seems apt that chocolate's scientific name, Theobrama cacao, means "food of the gods"--a reference to its use in ancient Mayan and Aztec ceremonies.
The history of chocolate in America is filled with unique and significant innovations--innovations that transformed this food from an elite luxury to an affordable and appealing staple in almost everyone's diet. Read on to learn more about a few "feel-good" classics from America's rich chocolate heritage.
Recipe Booklet, "Favorite Chocolate Recipes made with Nestle's Semi-Sweet Chocolate," 1940. THF125194
Chocolate Chip Cookies In the late 1930s, Ruth Wakefield “invented” the chocolate chip cookie while baking some of her favorite cookies. Wakefield was a dietitian and food lecturer until she and her husband opened the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. At the Toll House, she served home-cooked meals for tourists and local customers.
Bosco Drink Mix Advertisement, 1963, "What New Bosco and a Shaker Will Do for You" . THF125198
Bosco® Chocolate Syrup If you're a Baby Boomer, chances are that the word "Bosco®" almost immediately brings to mind the jingle from the old television commercial, beginning with the verse:
I love Bosco®, It's rich and chocolate-y; Chocolate-flavored Bosco® Is mighty good for me.
The advertisement pictured here was a direct appeal to the moms of these TV-watching kids. It not only promised a convenient shaker, but claimed that the new recipe was "super-fortified" for healthy, growing children.
Bosco®, introduced in 1928, was apparently no match for the products of the more dominant brands, like Hershey's chocolate syrup (1926) and Nestle's Quik (1948). Yet, Bosco® not only still exists, but is happily living on in our popular culture--its jingle was even included in the soundtrack of the movie Shrek 2.
Nabisco Oreo Cookies Advertisement, "Oh! Oh! OREO!," 1951 . THF125200
Oreos® Youngsters from virtually every generation of the last century have been able to enjoy an Oreo® cookie dipped in a glass of whole milk, or have mischievously "unscrewed" the chocolate disks of an Oreo® to eat its creamy center. Oreo® cookies were introduced by Nabisco in 1912, to compete with the British "biscuit"-type cookies that Nabisco claimed were too "ordinary." The first Oreos® were available with either lemon meringue or white cream filling.
Over 500 billion Oreo® cookies have been sold since they were first introduced, making them the best-selling cookie of the 20th century.
S'mores Chocolate seems to blend perfectly with crispy Graham crackers and soft, puffy marshmallows. Products combining these three ingredients have been around for almost a century, including Mallomars (Nabisco, 1913) and Moon Pies (Chattanooga Bakery, Tennessee, 1917). No one knows who invented S'mores, the camping treat made by sandwiching a toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate between two graham crackers. The recipe for these gooey, delicious treats first appeared in the 1927 Girl Scout Handbook as "Some Mores." Today, portable restaurant and home kits are bringing the fun of making and eating S'mores indoors.
Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford. A version of this post originally ran in 2008 as part of our Pic of the Month series.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s experiences focused on Being Empathetic. Were you inspired to show empathy? To create or invent? Please share your story or photos with us on social media using #WeAreInnovationNation!
If you missed anything from our series this past week, check out the recordings and resources below. We hope that you will join us this upcoming week to explore new themes drawn from our Model i Learning Framework, focusing on Stay Curious.
STEAM Stories Join us for a reading of Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley and Cedella Marley and then learn about wood and fabric using a lesson from our early childhood curriculum, Innovate for Tots. Watch the video here.
Innovation Journeys Live! Join us for an Innovation Journey Live and learn how innovations in hearing and speech technologies provide accessibility options for many during our interview with Kristen Gallerneaux, Communication and Information Technology.
#THFCuratorChat Get a feel for what Curator of Transportation Matt Anderson shared during our most recent #THFCuratorChat, highlighting our partners at AAA.
Kid Inventor Profile In our Friday segment we will learn how empathy for others inspired this Invention Convention US Nationals winner to develop software to help doctors screen for cancer. This week we feature Vidya Srinivas, Invention Convention Michigan’s grand prize winner and first place winner in the 12th grade category at Nationals last year. Her invention, AutoImage is a cell-counting and identifying software that is intended to minimize the amount of time that researchers spend on manual labor during the cancer research process, enabling faster, more accurate, and more cost-effective cancer research. Watch video here.
Learn more below about how our Invention Convention Curriculum activities can to keep your child innovating here:
Resource Highlight: Innovate Curriculum
In our continued efforts to help parents, students and educators during these times of uncertainty, The Henry Ford is providing helpful tips that assist parents in adapting its educational tools for implementation at home.
This week we are again highlighting a lesson from the Innovate Curriculum. Designed to accelerate core discipline performance, Innovate helps middle and high school students connect their subject matter to real-world applications through innovation understanding and skills development, unleashing every student’s potential to develop groundbreaking ideas. Students journey from learning the habits and actions of innovators to unleashing the innovator within.
Create your free account today to access four interactive courses featuring: - Primary source digital artifacts from The Henry Ford’s Archive of American Innovation - Dynamic lessons with real-life stories - Learn-by-doing activities and interactive content that helps prepare students and their prototypes to participate in competitions - Exclusive interviews with past and present visionaries - Celebrity-led tours of today’s most exciting start-ups - Facilitator guides that help educators and parents guide their students through the courses
Keep in mind that these courses were designed to be completed in a classroom setting, so feel free to adapt the courses for home use. These courses can be done on their own or in any order, but the recommended sequence is as follows:
INNOVATE 101: Inspire Our Future as an Innovative Thinker Students learn about the unique qualities that make an innovator, and how innovative thinking can not only solve problems but create world-changing social transformation.
INNOVATE 102: Solve Our Problems Students learn how innovators uncover insights, define problems, design prototypes and optimize solutions.
INNOVATE 103:Unleash Your Ideas as You Learn to Think Like an Entrepreneur Students discover how to move ideas forward by identifying customers, what to do to protect their ideas, how to communicate with an audience and how to pitch to investors.
INNOVATE 104:Activate Your Potential Students get to apply what they have learned and turn an idea into action. They will uncover an issue, come up with a solution, identify the users and create a unique prototype that they develop, showcase and pitch to others.
If your child is inspired to create an innovation of their own, check out Innovate 102, Lesson 2: Learning What People Need. Use the Innovate 102 facilitator’s guide and the tips below to guide your experience.
To prep for Lesson 2, you may want to first look at Innovate 102, Lesson 1: Uncovering a Need.
Begin by discussing what “innovation” means. You can use Innovate 101, Lesson 1 to help frame the conversation.
Spend some time talking about the Actions of Innovation and the Habits of an Innovator – which ones have you used before? Which ones are less familiar? See page 2.
Encourage your child to start keeping a “design journal” – see page 1 of the facilitator guide for more details.
Talk about why it is important to talk to people who will use your innovation.
Think about the difference between closed- and open-ended questions. Why are open-ended questions more valuable when trying to find out what people need?
In this lesson, entrepreneur Will Allen demonstrates the power of open-ended questions. Can your child think of times when they asked open-ended questions? Closed-ended questions? Was there a difference in the types of answers they received?
Practice asking open-ended questions with your child. Learning how to understand what people need is an important skill for all ages! Parents and educators can learn more about Model i here.
Thanks to AAA Auto Club Group for sponsoring this week’s events.
While working for Ford Motor Company, Thompson conceived of an idea for an all-terrain vehicle that would do for Third World countries what the Model T did for America. This post highlights Thompson’s life and career as the first African-American automobile designer and sheds light on his little-known project for a vehicle ahead of its time, dubbed the Warrior.
Finding His Passion On an October afternoon in 1934, 12-year-old McKinley Thompson, Jr., was stopped in his tracks while walking home from school. The reason? He had spotted a brand-new silver DeSoto Airflow, the first silver-colored and streamlined vehicle he had ever seen. In an interview from 2001, Thompson recalled that “the clouds opened up for the sunshine to come through… It lit that car up like a searchlight.” Awestruck by the unique design of the car, it was right then and there that Thompson knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: an automobile designer.
McKinley Thompson, Jr., undated (Photograph Courtesy of McKinley Thompson, Jr.)
In his youth, Thompson showed promise in drawing and was particularly interested in futuristic themes. He participated in commercial art courses throughout high school and, upon graduation in 1940, completed drafting courses where he learned to plan projects and present his ideas through drawings and concept illustrations. With these skills, Thompson acquired his first job as a draftsman with the National Youth Administration. He then worked as an engineering design layout coordinator for the Army Signal Corps until he was drafted to serve in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. Following the war, he continued working for the Signal Corps until 1953, when he found an opportunity to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an automobile designer.
Seizing the Opportunity
“Do you want to be an Automotive Designer” contest article from Motor Trend magazine, March 1953 THF299257
In March of 1953, Motor Trend magazine sponsored an Automotive and Industrial Design contest with the goal of discovering talented young adults. The prize? One of five, four-year tuition-free scholarships to the prestigious Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles – one of the most respected schools for industrial design. Contest entry required several drawings and sketches, photographs, or models of cars and other products, along with an essay responding to the prompt, “What I think the trend in automotive design will be in the next ten years.” For McKinley Thompson, this was the chance of a lifetime – and he won.
McKinley Thompson’s winning entry in the article, “From Dream to Drawing Board to…?” in Motor Trend magazine, September 1953. In his essay, Thompson wrote that cars of the future would sacrifice aerodynamics to accommodate “more functional roominess and reduced size.” THF299268
Thompson’s gas turbine car, which incorporated reinforced plastic (an unusual choice of material at the time), won him the top prize. Thompson became the first African American to attend the Art Center, where he excelled throughout his course of study. After graduation, Thompson was offered a job with Ford Motor Company in the Advanced Styling Studio, finally realizing his childhood dream and breaking a barrier by becoming the first African-American automobile designer.
In the Advanced Styling Studio, designers were given a great deal of creative freedom. This suited Thompson’s interest in futuristic themes, allowing him to contribute sketches for fantastical ideas, such as a flying car and a nuclear-powered multi-trailered truck. He also worked on the Allegro and Gyron concept cars and collaborated on design ideas for the production Mustang and Bronco.
The Warrior While Thompson’s career at Ford gave him the opportunity to work on a variety of vehicles and concepts that could change the automotive industry, his most innovative idea had the potential to change the world. Thompson envisioned an all-terrain vehicle for Third World countries that would be easy to build and maintain, with low production costs. But his vision extended beyond the vehicle, which he dubbed the Warrior. He anticipated auto plants – located in the developing nations that would use the car – bringing jobs, better roads, and eventual economic independence to the host countries. Much like how the Model T brought America into the modern age and stimulated the economy through accessible and affordable mobility, Thompson believed the Warrior could do the same for Third World nations.
His program was called “Project Vanguard.” The plan was to use Uniroyal plastic components – known as Royalex – because they were lightweight, durable, and relatively cost-efficient. The first phase of the plan involved building a facility where Royalex could be fabricated for use on the Warrior and other assets. The second phase would involve the building of the vehicle division (to encompass the Warrior and other future vehicles), followed by a marine division for constructing boats, and a container division where “habitat modules” would be fabricated for housing. Though Ford Motor Company was supportive when Thompson first brought his idea to the company in 1965, Ford ultimately passed on the project in 1967, believing that the vehicle would not sell in large enough quantities to warrant the investment.
Despite this setback, Thompson still believed that his vehicle could succeed. He thought that if he produced a prototype car and could demonstrate the possibilities of this unique application of Royalex, he could garner interest for investment in the program. He gathered several friends to help in financing the Warrior prototype, including Wally Triplett – the first African American to play in the National Football League (for the Detroit Lions). By day, McKinley Thompson drafted concept drawings for Ford, but by night he worked tirelessly to bring his Warrior to life in a rented garage on Detroit’s west side.
Once his prototype was complete, Thompson and his partners attempted to market it to other investors and groups. They reached out to the Small Business Administration, which turned them down because the endeavor would take place outside the United States. They tried to gain assistance from the Agency for International Development but received little interest. A group of people at Chrysler, who assisted small businesses in getting started, suggested to Thompson that he first establish a market for Royalex in the United States. Plastic-bodied vehicles were still an unusual concept, and American automakers at the time were only experimenting with the idea on a limited scale. Thompson realized he was caught in a classic catch-22: He needed a Royalex facility to establish a market for plastic-bodied vehicles, but he couldn’t get the facility built without an existing market for plastic-bodied vehicles.
Instability on the African continent derailed opportunities to conduct business with the nations themselves. Thompson even tried to secure a bank loan to build Warrior cars in Detroit, but he was ultimately denied in this attempt as well. (Triplett later recounted that he felt that race played a role.) While every potential investor he approached told him it was a good idea, Thompson simply was unable to secure the funding needed to pursue his idea, eventually causing him to shut down the project in 1979.
Image from a 1965 Royalex sales brochure, showing the possibilities of an amphibious vehicle using Royalex materials. Interestingly, the Warrior was designed to be an all-terrain vehicle – including use for crossing rivers and small inland lakes! Click here to check out the rest of this brochure in which Uniroyal has suggested other uses for Royalex. THF290896
An Inspiring Career Around the same time that the doors were closing on the Warrior, Thompson developed another way to influence and change people’s lives. He coordinated a traveling exhibit, featuring the work of other African-American automobile designers, to motivate and encourage young people toward careers in design. Thompson traveled across the country, staging his exhibit in schools and shopping centers.
Photograph from the Ford Motor Company publication, “Rouge News,” March 19, 1962 THF299429
McKinley Thompson had an impressive 28-year career with Ford. In 1962 he was awarded Ford’s highest honor for community service, the Citizen of the Year Award. He contributed to a variety of projects (including experimental concept cars), worked in the Thunderbird and Falcon design studios, and eventually oversaw 50 craftspeople and modelers before retiring in 1984.
Despite his career success, Thompson continued to regret that his Warrior vehicle and overall program never materialized – though he was proud of his accomplishment in building the Warrior and proving it’s basic feasibility. The Warrior project was ahead of its time in design and philosophy. The extensive use of plastic, so common today, was revolutionary at the time. Mr. Thompson’s larger economic prophecy was partially fulfilled in 1995 when Ewert Smith’s URI, an all-terrain vehicle designed for African topography, was manufactured in the small town of Witvlei, Namibia. The URI plant became Witvlei’s largest employer, providing economic stability to the area.
Even though the Warrior never made it to market, Thompson kept the car as a leisure vehicle, taking it on family vacations and occasionally using it to run errands – usually attracting a fair amount of attention. Thompson donated his prototype to The Henry Ford in 2001.
McKinley Thompson, Jr., passed away at the age of 83, after battling Parkinson’s disease, in 2006.
Samantha Johnson is Project Curator for the William Davidson Foundation Initiative for Entrepreneurship at The Henry Ford. This post expands upon Bart Bealmear’s “The Warrior,” blog post from February 2014. Special thanks to Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation, for his help in reviewing the content.
Do you have a favorite dish — or dishes — from MichiganCafé? With a diverse menu ranging from Falafel Dogs to Corktown Burgers, it may be hard to choose just one! If you’re in the mood for some Detroit-inspired recipes, try two of our most popular Café selections featuring unique tastes of Detroit: Vernors Ginger Soda and Better Made Potato Chips.
Vernors Cake 1 12-ounce can Vernors Ginger Ale 6 ounces unsalted butter, softened (let sit at room temperature) 1½ cups sugar 2 eggs ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ½ teaspoon ground ginger 1½ cups flour
Heat oven to 350 F. Empty Vernors into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce by at least half, so ginger ale is syruplike. This should yield ¼ cup of syrup for the cake batter, plus extra for brushing on top. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Combine eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and add slowly to the butter mixture. Combine ground ginger and flour in another bowl and add alternately to the batter with ¼ cup of Vernors syrup.
Bake in a paper loaf pan or cupcake pan with liners for 30 minutes. Yields 8 loaves.
Brush with reserved Vernors syrup while warm. Cool completelybefore serving. Top with vanilla icing.
Looking for more Vernors recipes? Try this 1950 recipe book from our digital collections.
Better Made Chicken Tenders (gluten free) 1 pound (about 12 pieces) chicken breast tenderloins Salt and pepper 1½ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour 2 eggs, beaten with ¼ cup water 2 cups crushed Better Made Potato Chips
Arrange chicken tenders on a sheet pan and pat dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. Place the flour, beaten eggs and chips in separate bowls. Dredge tenders individually in the flour, shaking off excess. Then dip floured tenders in egg wash and finally coat with crushed chips. (Can be made a day ahead to this point and refrigerated.)
When ready to eat, heat frying oil to 350 F. Gently place breaded tenders into oil and fry until they are golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 165 F (about 4-5 minutes).
It was my privilege to take over The Henry Ford’s Twitter feed for a while on the morning of May 14. Our theme for the day was "Be Empathetic." To me that means "be helpful and supportive," and those attributes remind me of early auto organizations like the Automobile Club of Michigan, founded in 1916. The Automobile Club of Michigan is one of several regional organizations that joined the American Automobile Association. Over the years, AAA’s work has included advocating for better roads, providing roadside assistance to stranded motorists, encouraging traffic safety generally – particularly near schools, and promoting tourism and travel by car throughout the United States. During my Twitter session, I shared several AAA items in the collections of The Henry Ford.
To the Rescue on the Road
THF103500 / Pamphlet from AAA of Michigan, "Emergency Road Service Guide," June 1951 / front
AAA began offering emergency roadside service in 1915. This 1951 pamphlet lists affiliated service garages throughout Michigan.
THF333431 / 1947 Ford Repair Truck at the Ralph Ellsworth Dealership, Garden City, Michigan, October 1946
This photo shows one of the AAA-affiliated wreckers that might've come to your aid in the late 1940s or early 1950s. In this case, it's a 1947 Ford.
THF304296 / Toy Truck, Used by James Greenhoe, 1937-1946
Children could play their own "roadside assistance" games with a toy truck like this one, made circa 1940.
Keeping Children Safe
THF153486 / Automobile Club of Michigan Safety Patrol Armband, 1950-1960
Speaking of children, one of AAA's most important initiatives is its School Safety Patrol program, established in 1920.
THF208042 / Music Sheet, "The Official Song of the Safety Patrol," 1937
Safety patrollers help adults in protecting students at crosswalks, and in bus and car drop-off and pick-up zones. Their dedicated efforts were celebrated in "Song of the Safety Patrol" from 1937.
THF289667 / Detroit Police Officer Anthony Hosang Talks with Safety Patrol Students on a Tour of the Ford Rouge Plant, May 10, 1950
Here's a group of Detroit safety patrol members in 1950. They're listening to police officer Anthony Hosang as a part of a tour through Ford's Rouge Plant – a reward for a job well done.
Reaching Your Destination
THF104025 / "Official Highway Map of Michigan," Automobile Club of Michigan, 1934
AAA also helps drivers find their way by publishing road maps. Here's one showing the Detroit metro area in 1934. Many of the highway numbers are familiar, but their routes have changed.
THF136038 / Log and Map of Automobile Routes between Detroit-Gary and Chicago, 1942
Here's a map of routes between Detroit and Gary-Chicago in 1942. The northern-most route (then U.S. 12) parallels modern I-94.
THF151706 / Automobile Club of Michigan, "Know Michigan Better, Stay Longer," Sign, 1950-1960
AAA also promotes tourism, encouraging drivers to explore America – and their own states. Residents can "know Michigan better," and visitors can "stay longer."
THF14793 / Travel Brochure for Holland Michigan, circa 1940
Springtime brings tulips, and what better place to enjoy them then Holland? (Holland, Michigan, that is.)
Here's a AAA guidebook promoting travel to Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
THF9103 / Host Mark Magazine, "Greenfield Village & Henry Ford Musem, A Bicentennial Site," 1976
And here's a familiar sight on the cover of AAA's Host Mark magazine. It's Greenfield Village, where bicentennial celebrations were underway throughout 1976.
It was great fun sharing these pieces with our Twitter followers. I also enjoyed answering some questions about our wider transportation holdings along the way. “Be Empathetic” – it’s an important lesson anytime, but especially right now.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
An early version of Kermit the Frog appeared in Henson’s Sam and Friends TV puppet show, but Kermit became a breakout star during The Muppet Show. THF304042
It’s hard to believe that May 16, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson’s passing. His influence can still be seen in so many places: on-demand TV shows, movies, and specials; related books, toys, games, and other merchandise; and modern-day puppets, puppet performances, and puppeteers.
In his lifetime, Henson’s titles included puppeteer, writer, director, producer, and entrepreneur. But titles can be misleading because he was so much more than these. A brilliant innovator, he continually questioned the status quo, broke boundaries, and experimented with new ideas. By stretching the known capabilities of both puppetry and the medium of television (and, then, of motion pictures), he created a new art form. And, in the process, he inspired us—the viewers—to use our imaginations, to take ourselves less seriously, and to treat others with greater tolerance.
Jim Henson (born 1936) was drawn to the arts at a young age, including an early fascination with puppetry. When he entered college, he thought about majoring in fine arts. But he found—buried in the course list of the home economics department at his school—a class on puppetry. So, even though most of the students majoring in home economics were females learning domestic skills for future homemaking, he decided that would be his major.
Henson was inspired by early radio and TV puppets, including Charlie McCarthy, a “cheeky” boyish dummy voiced by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen.THF106436
As a freshman in college, Henson developed his own TV puppet show called Sam and Friends, which appeared briefly twice each evening. While working on this show, Henson started questioning many long-standing puppetry traditions. Why not, for example, use the entire frame of the TV screen as the actual puppet theater stage rather than bringing a separate puppet stage into the TV studio? Wouldn’t it follow, he then asked, that the puppet operators could work from off-camera rather than appearing to viewers on the screen?
Henson moved from there to questioning the puppets themselves. Why not make them more lifelike, with flexible fabric-covered foam rubber rather than the traditional carved wood? Why not use rods to move their arms—rather than the more traditional strings—to give them greater flexibility? Why not make the puppets’ mouth movements more precise to match their dialog—enhancing their believability and letting their full range of emotions be conveyed through words as well as actions? Finally, why not give the characters distinct personalities? Better yet, imbue their personalities with whimsy, playfulness, and humor. As Henson continued to refine his ideas and his characters, an entirely new kind of puppet was born—part puppet, part marionette, and all Henson. He called his new creations Muppets.
During his early career, Henson studied the artistry of traditional wood-carved marionettes when he spent time in Europe. THF38105
The publicity that Henson gained with his Sam and Friends show led to his invention of a host of new Muppet characters for a range of TV commercials. By this time, the 1960s, it seemed that people were coming to appreciate humor, irony, and satire more than the serious “hard sell” that had been the norm.
Adding life-size Muppets like Big Bird to the regular cast of Sesame Street increased the show’s popularity. THF97451
Though he was initially reluctant to collaborate on a TV show aimed specifically at kids, Henson experienced their first major breakthrough with Sesame Street, which premiered in 1969 (for more on Sesame Street, see this post).
But Henson’s greatest claim to fame came with The Muppet Show (1976-81)—produced in England because American TV networks wrongly assumed that Muppets would just appeal to kids. Hosted by his somewhat “bolder” alter-ego, Kermit the Frog (whom he controlled and voiced), this show introduced millions of viewers to Henson’s unique blend of humor and imagination. The Muppet Show would go on to air in more than 100 countries, win several Emmy awards, and lead to several spin-off motion pictures.
The song “Rainbow Connection,” first written to provide depth and humanity to Kermit the Frog’s character for the 1979 film, The Muppet Movie, has gone on to become a sort of Muppets anthem. THF182956
Jim Henson went on to contribute his talents and ideas to new fantasy/adventure films, most famously aiding in the creation and articulation of Yoda for the 1980 film, The Empire Strikes Back. He tried his hand with a few of his own fantasy/adventure films, including The Dark Crystal (1981) and Labyrinth (1986)—both of which were destined to become cult classics. He also created two additional popular TV series—Fraggle Rock (1983-87) and the Saturday morning animated show, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (1984-91). Just before his passing, Henson worked with The Walt Disney Company to develop the themed attraction, Muppet*Vision 3D at Walt Disney World.
Fraggle Rock characters Wembly and Boober in a pickle-shaped vehicle from a 1988 McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion.THF308672
Inspired by a flashback sequence in the film, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies were represented in the McDonald’s 1994 Happy Birthday Happy Meal promotion.THF319291
Today, Jim Henson’s Muppets delight children of all ages. Henson once claimed that, with puppets, you can deal with subjects in a way that isn’t possible with people. The Muppets may not be people, but they certainly reflect who we are as people, providing a mirror to our thoughts, hopes, and dreams.
Jim Henson had plenty of his own dreams. He wanted to make a difference in the world, to change people’s lives in positive ways—through laughter, delight, and imagination. Henson once said that, “I decided that there are many situations in this life that I can’t do much about: acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, cold war, etc. So what I should do is concentrate on the situations my energy can affect.” Wise and timeless words for the times we live in today!
Appearing in short segments on Sesame Street, ultra-serious Bert and fun-loving Ernie demonstrate to kids that good friends can be tolerant of each other’s differences. THF309817, THF309818
During his lifetime, Henson was deeply committed to encouraging, mentoring, and recognizing the talents of a new generation of puppeteers. In 1982, he established the Jim Henson Foundation to promote and develop puppetry in the United States. Today, the Jim Henson Foundation’s web site is the go-to place to find out what’s happening in contemporary puppet theatre and currently features extensive listings of online puppet shows to “help people collectively navigate the COVID-19 Health Crisis.” Instructions for making your own puppets are included here as well. Through his efforts, and those of his family who carry on his vision, Jim Henson’s legacy has ensured that puppetry is no longer relegated simply to home economics classes but has become a highly respected art form.
Jim Henson and his legacy live on, through Muppet programs and specials; Muppet operators and performers; those who have cherished memories of growing up with Muppet characters and pass these on to younger generations; new audiences who have discovered the old classic characters and shows; and the modern-day puppeteers Henson has inspired.
At a special tribute by the Muppets for Jim Henson back in 1990, Robin the Frog (Kermit’s nephew) remarked that, “Jim Henson may be gone, but maybe he’s still here too, inside us, believing in us.”
I like to believe this is true.
Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.
Additional Note: Just down the road from The Henry Ford, The Detroit Institute of Arts recently brought out on exhibit a 1969 version of Kermit, donated to them by Jim Henson himself in 1971. See more here.
THF293101 / Stock Crate Label for an Unknown Brand of Asparagus, 1906-1966
With asparagus season in full swing, we’ve searched our Historic Recipe Bank and Eagle Tavern Cookbook for spring menu inspiration.
Our first recipe, Cold Asparagus Salad with Sesame Seeds, is from the 1997 edition of The All New Joy of Cooking. Since it came out in 1931, The Joy of Cooking has become the essential culinary bible for many, with generations of home cooks learning to cook from it. The Joy of Cooking has been revised over the years, with its fans championing their favorite editions.
Place in a large pot of boiling water: 1½ pounds asparagus, peeled and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
Cook for no more than 1½ minutes for thin asparagus or 2½ minutes for thicker. Immediately drain and refill the pot with cold running water until all of the heat has left the asparagus. Drain again and dry thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until the salad is cold, about 1 hour. Toss with the dressing and serve.
Eagle Tavern Asparagus Pie 1 pound asparagus 1 tablespoon whole butter 1 cup sour cream 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese 4 eggs Pinch nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste 9-inch pie shell
Clean the asparagus, removing and discarding woody ends; trim the rest to ½-inch pieces.
Heat oven to 350 F. In a skillet over medium heat, heat butter. When hot, add asparagus and partially cook for 4-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Whisk together sour cream, cheese, eggs and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper.
Place the cooled asparagus on the bottom of the pie shell and add the whisked egg mixture.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set and golden brown. Allow the pie to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.